Last week, Disney launched its long-awaited streaming service, Disney +. In addition to classic Disney movies and television shows, subscribers can access top blockbusters from the Marvel universe, documentaries, nature programs from National Geographic, and new content created specifically for the new platform. As a Star Wars fan, I was particularly anxious to see how Disney handled The Mandalorian, a series that has been the focus of advertising for Disney +.
Star Wars fans can be hard to please, and I admit to having issues with some of the direction those in charge have taken since the original film first appeared in 1977. I was nine years old when the movie came out, and it immediately captured a part of my soul. It was different and changed the way movies were made, including those outside of the sci-fi genre. The influences of Star Wars in numerous aspects of film making can still be felt to this day.
With millions of devotees around the globe, Star Wars set the standard for creating a business that resonates with people. Why else do fans attend conventions, create original artwork, and write their own stories based on the concept? Star Wars is more than a series of movies, television shows, and merchandise. Star Wars is a brand that has surpassed the original goal of making a little bit of money for 20th Century Fox. Other brands looking to develop the kind of cult following that Star Wars has would do well to learn from the successes and mistakes made over the past 42 years.
- Listen to your audience. The last thing a brand wants to do is alienate the faithful. Pay attention to what they ask for. Watch how they interact with your product. Take note when they complain. When you listen to the customer, you make decisions that make them happy and bring you more business. Rogue One was a success because it filled a need Star Wars fans had expressed. Solo bombed because it answered a question no one cared about.
- Continue to break new ground. You can’t rely on the same old product and services to continue generating interest. You have to innovate. Star Wars is at its best when it introduces new characters and new worlds that connect seamlessly with what came before. When something doesn’t seem to fit, or breaks from patterns that the customer has come to depend on, the brand hits a speed bump. Animated series like The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels succeeded because they filled in gaps that begged for new stories. The 1978 Star Wars Christmas Special failed because it held no connection to the world that had been created.
- Don’t mess with what’s working. Customers rebel against unneeded change. When George Lucas began tinkering with the original Star Wars movie, replacing original scenes with new computer-generated characters, and even altering the story in some cases, fans voiced their discontent. If the product works, and customers are happy, it’s probably best to leave things alone. Focus on furthering the relationship, rather than tinkering with issues that don’t exist.
It takes a lot of effort to create customers for life and there will naturally be missteps along the way. The secret to success is learning as you grow. So last Tuesday night, as I settled in to watch the premiere episode of The Mandalorian, my mind mulled over these thoughts. Would this show help build the brand? Or, like The Last Jedi, leave me sorely disappointed with the direction of my beloved franchise?
Thankfully, the creators of this new entry seem to have paid attention. We’re two episodes in and so far, the show is fantastic. It has new characters and an original story, but remains grounded in the core elements that keep this fan coming back for more.